Here are some ways that others have used to reduce the costs associated with attending PIR. I hope they can help you.
Some recruits have sent money (they are getting paid after all) for a family member or special someone to attend PIR. That is more likely to happen if your recruit is being paid as an E-2 or E-3 than if s/he is an E-1.
You could set up a webpage in the Travel & Adventure section on http://www.gofundme.com/ and ask your family and friends to assist you with the expenses. Do not post the link on N4M if you choose to do that.
Be aware that if you use a debit card to book your hotel room or a rental car that they most likely will put a hold on funds for more than the amount to cover any unforeseen charges, so you may want to use a credit card when making those reservations or make sure that you have plenty of funds in your bank account so that your card will not be denied when you go to use it.
If you are a member of AAA or AARP or some other organization, check to see if they have any discounts to offer.
You do not have to book refundable tickets. Some airlines, such as Southwest, will allow you to change flights without an additional charge. If you book using https://travel.sandboxx.us/, then there is no change fee if there is a change in your recruit's PIR date. Some frequent flyer programs will also allow you to change your reservation one time without a rebooking fee; it is free to join most of them, so you may want to consider joining for this benefit even if you don't plan to fly much. You do need to make the change at least 24 hours before your scheduled flight or there will be a charge. Southwest also allows you to check 2 bags for free as long as they are under 50 pounds and within the size limit (62 inches--length + width + height). When booking flights, sometimes an airline that appears to have the best rates doesn't when you add in the baggage fees.
There are 3 airports close to RTC, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport--ORD (located 30 miles from RTC), Chicago’s Midway International Airport--MDW (located 45 miles from RTC) and Milwaukee County’s General Mitchell International Airport--MKE (located 50 miles from RTC). Check the fares into and out of each of the airports. Some have indicated that they found less expensive fares to and from Milwaukee while others have found the best deals in and out of Midway.
When booking flights, try to book on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning as those days are when the specials and price changes happen. If you can stay until Monday, the price may be lower as well, but you will also need to factor in the additional night at the hotel, additional food costs, and the extra car rental or taxi fares when deciding if this is a good deal for you.
Sometimes a friend or family member is willing to donate frequent flyer miles to help a loved one make the trip for PIR if they are made aware of the need.
MWRGL may be able to assist you with making your reservations. Go to http://www.navymwrgreatlakes.com/programs/e04ba348-f0c5-404f-9055-7ebdb0863562 for more information.
Some have discovered that it is actually less expensive for them to drive when they factored in the airfare and car rental or taxi fees. http://www.gasbuddy.com/ can help you figure out the gas prices.
Some have been able to share a ride to GL and split the gas costs. Post in your PIR group if this is something you would be interested in. You may find someone in the same city or in a nearby city, but even if you share the ride with someone somewhere along the way, you will both save money.
You can avoid most tolls by using Route 41, it goes all the way to Chicago and will get you from Chicago to RTC and nearby lodging. If you are traveling through Chicago on the way to and from Great Lakes, follow 94 East which merges into Route 41 to avoid toll roads. Your hotel may be able to give you directions to RTC that will avoid toll roads. https://www.illinoistollway.com/ may help you to plan for the toll costs.
Greyhound Bus provides service to Waukegan, Illinois. Waukegan borders Great Lakes Naval Station. The Greyhound Bus station is located at 2107 Belvidere Road, Waukegan, Illinois. Save 15% when you book your tickets online.
Amtrak provides train service to Glenview, IL. The train station is located at 1116 Depot Street, Glenview, IL. The Amtrak station is located approximately 20 miles from the Great Lakes Naval Station.
Chicago Transit Authority trains can be taken to Great Lakes from the Amtrak station. The Metra station is located across the street from RTC.
If you are using Sarge's Transportation service for PIR, he is wonderful and will ask you if you want to "carpool" with other families arriving or leaving near the same time, which saves money for all. On your PIR group page, you can post your arrival time/airport and see if others will be coming in around the same time. He gives good rates anyway, but it is even better when you can split the cab fare with others. If you use his service from the airport, then he will take you to/from PIR for free. Sarge can be found on here as OldSarge and there is information on his rates on his profile page.
You could use Sarge's services to get from the airport to Waukegan where car rental rates are less expensive than rates near the airport. Be sure to figure in his rates to see if this will result in a savings for you. Most car rental agencies have shuttles from the airports to an off-site location, so ask about that when checking rates.
Some hotels offer free or low cost (usually around $3 per person) shuttle services to and from PIR. Some shuttles will allow the new Sailor to ride free with a paying person who is booked at the hotel. You will need to check on the cost and availability of shuttle services when booking your hotel. Be sure to ask what the "shuttle" is because the "shuttle" at some hotels may be a bus, a van, or a taxi.
If you take a taxi or shuttle or otherwise walk in, it is about 100 yards to the Visitors Center from the gate and then about the same to the Drill Hall. Dress warmly in winter and wear comfortable shoes all year round.
If your Sailor will be staying in GL after PIR, you may want to rent a car so that you have more freedom over the weekend. Some have found that they saved money by booking the car rental with their airfare rather than booking it separately or using a taxi or shuttle service.
One mom indicated that using http://www.airportrentals.com/ worked out great for her. The cost was $23.96 for three days and it was a nice car that came through Advantage. They shuttle you to the car and then when you drop it off, they shuttle you to the airport. Another mom received a discount code in an email after booking with Southwest that allowed her to rent a car through Budget for $12 a day. You can also look for coupon codes online for the different car rental agencies. You can sometimes use more than one code to get greater savings.
Some car rental agencies will try to convince you to purchase an I-PASS for about $6.95 to $10 a day. Don't do that! You can avoid toll roads most of the time and if you have to travel on a toll road, the tolls will be much less than the cost of the I-PASS. You can avoid most tolls by using Route 41, it goes all the way to Chicago and will get you from Chicago to RTC and nearby lodging. If you are traveling through Chicago on the way to and from Great Lakes, follow 94 East which merges into Route 41 to avoid toll roads. Your hotel may be able to give you directions to RTC that will avoid toll roads. http://www.illinoistollway.com may help you to plan for the toll costs. There is an interactive Tollway map at the bottom.
Some have been satisfied with Uber, especially when in Chicago.
The discussion, Recommended List of Rental Cars, Taxis, and Shuttle Services, within PIR Reference Information may give you some ideas.
There will most likely be a page or discussion within your PIR group about places to stay. Check the hotel prices online and by phone to get the best rates. Some hotels have discounts for those attending PIR that you would not get by booking online, so be sure to ask. Some hotels, such as SpringHill Suites by Marriott, have discounts for senior citizens that are better than the discounts for PIR if you have a senior citizen in your party. Check all options.
Some who were going to PIR alone have been able to find another mom or wife to share a room with and save money. Post within your PIR group if this is something you would be interested in.
The discussion, Recommended Places to Stay, within PIR Reference Information may give you some ideas. Check http://www.tripadvisor.com/ to see what others have said about any hotel you are considering.
If you check availability at a hotel online that you are interested in and it indicates that the hotel is booked, then call the hotel and check. Some hotels will block out rooms for PIR and their websites will indicate all rooms are booked when there are rooms available.
MWRGL may be able to assist you with making your reservations. Go to http://www.navymwrgreatlakes.com/programs/e04ba348-f0c5-404f-9055-7ebdb0863562 for more information. The brochure that is included from MWRGL about hotels and other things is at
http://airbnb.com/ may have a good option for you
http://military-hotels.us/ shows hotels near military bases..and it tells you which ones are not recommended.
The closest hotels and possibly the cheapest (check rates before booking) are:
The Navy Gateway Inns & Suites is located on the main part of the base, about 1.5 miles from RTC. This option is now available only for those with a military or dependent ID. Go to http://ngis.dodlodging.net/propertys/Naval-Station-Great-Lakes- or call 877-NavyBed (877-628-9233). You will need to give your recruit's name and division number when making the reservation and/or when checking in. They will begin taking reservations by phone 30 days before PIR or you can make reservations online about 6 weeks before PIR. There may be restrictions on where you can go on base without your Sailor being with you. Taxis and shuttles pick up and drop off at the gate, so it is better if you have a vehicle if staying at the Gateway Inn and Suites. It is also important to note that Standard and Suite rooms are located around 1/2 mile or so from the check in desk (some have indicated 1/4 mi. and others 3/4 mi.). There are standard rooms, rooms with a kitchen, and suites. All rooms include a refrigerator, microwave, and free Wifi. A free continental breakfast is available. Taxis can drop you off and pick you up at Pier 525 during certain hours, but not all taxis have a base pass to do so--some of Sarge's drivers do and others don't. The Sailors do have to be with a guest at the hotel when entering the hotel and anytime they are in the halls. Sailors staying GL for "A" School or training must have a deviation chit to visit the hotel after PIR weekend; it is not needed PIR weekend.
The Navy Lodge is located 1.9 miles off base from RTC in the Forestal Village Housing area and guests of graduation are allowed to stay there since your recruit/Sailor will be your sponsor. You will need to give your recruit's name, rate (E-1, E-2, or E-3), and division number when making the reservation and/or when checking in. Go to https://www.navy-lodge.com/Great-Lakes or call (847)689-1485. All rooms are non-smoking. They also have some family suites that include a kitchen as well as some rooms with kitchenettes. You can also book adjoining rooms if needed. All of the rooms, with the exception of some of the ADA rooms, have two queen beds. All rooms include direct TV and DVD, a refrigerator, a microwave, and free Wifi. They offer cribs and roll-away beds if needed at no additional charge. They have a breakfast to go that you can take with you to PIR and a free continental breakfast. There is a picnic area available if guests choose to have a cookout. The Navy Lodge permits pets; you must show proof of vaccinations and rabies vaccination. They also give pass for the NEX mini mart, so you could do shopping for things, the only things you cannot purchase are alcohol and cigarettes. Taxis can drive to the Navy Lodge if you don't have your own transportation. Booking online may give you a better rate than calling directly, so check both rates. Know that sometimes it will indicate online that there are no rooms when there are still rooms available since the Navy Lodge reserves a block of rooms for PIR that are not available online. The Sailors do have to be with a guest at the hotel when entering the hotel and anytime they are in the halls. If you arrive on Wednesday, they have a manager's dinner for guests in the lobby; it includes meatballs, pasta salad, fruit deserts, and rolls, cheese board, and beverages. Sailors staying GL for "A" School or training must have a deviation chit to visit the hotel after PIR weekend; it is not needed PIR weekend.
Some hotels offer a free breakfast. Many rooms have a refrigerator that you can store food in. Some suites have a kitchenette and you can cook your own meals. There is a Walmart Supercenter located near the Lakehurst Event Center where Sarge's Meet and Greet is held. Some restaurants will give your Sailor a discount on the entire ticket (you may need to ask for it) or will allow your Sailor to eat for free.
The Trattoria Pomigliano (Italian food), Lovell's of Lake Forest, Rain Forest Cafe at Gurnee Mills Mall (on the day of PIR only), and some other places will give your Sailor anything on the menu free. You get a free appetizer at Flanagan's Restaurant if you let them know you are there for PIR or you are family of a Navy graduate; your new Sailor does not have to be with you. The prices are included on the websites, so this will allow you to decide if any of these places is within your budget.
There will most likely be a discussion or page within your PIR group about places to eat.
Seeing the Sights
MWRGL may have some deals for you. You can check http://www.navymwrgreatlakes.com/programs/3f5465d7-7568-44b8-95de-060e23932fa3 for more information on that. There are some free venues available to you such as the Illinois Beach State Park. Know that your Sailor may be very happy to spend time at the hotel with you just relaxing (computer time and/or movie, junk food, favorite soda....). Being able to take a shower alone is such a treat for a new Sailor.
If your Sailor is staying in GL and you plan to go into Chicago, there is a train to Chicago on the weekends for $7.00 a person and $5.00 for active duty, which includes your Sailor, and it runs every two hours. This may be better than driving if you have a small group going since parking can be $20 or more at some places. There are some sights in Chicago, such as Willis "Sears" Tower, that are free for your Sailor. Be sure to watch the time and have your Sailor back in plenty of time to make muster at 10 pm.
Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has been free in the past for active duty military and up to 5 family members from Memorial Day until Labor Day.
Only military personnel and sometimes their dependents (spouse and children and other qualified dependents with a Military dependent ID) are entitled to a military discount. The exception is that the hotels and some other services in the area around RTC may have a discount package for those attending PIR--the hotels use the term "Navy graduation" rather than PIR. Do ask if there is any discount when making any reservations and check on the discount when eating out and your Sailor is with you.
The Navy Moms Relief Fund contributes to the parents or guardians of active duty service members who require financial assistance to attend boot camp graduation ceremonies.
The above information is provided by lemonelephant, the mom of a retired Sailor.
Last updated 09/03/2019